Come to me. … Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Jesus) Matthew 11:28-30 The Message

               Ah, a gorgeous September afternoon—warm, but not hot, air clear and golden in the long light of autumn. My dog and I were walking the trails of our favorite dog park. She trotted ahead of me, alert and happy, tail wagging, hair shining in the sunlight.

“Look at her,” whispered the Voice. “Isn’t this all you wanted when you adopted her two years ago?”

My heart smiled in response. “Yes, of course!”

You may remember my Misty, the rescue dog who arrived on the plane from Texas, a terrified bundle of fur. Coaxing her back into life, teaching her to trust us, has been a long process, testing our patience and commitment. There were many times I wondered if she could ever become what we called “a real dog.”

Now I think she has—mostly.

I can walk her down the road on leash without her cringing in terror. She naps at our feet, rides in the car calmly, has adapted to our RV. And she positively blooms in the dog park—greeting people and other dogs politely, walking with me on whatever trail I choose, staying at my feet when I rest on a bench. It has become her “happy place.”

But she’s not perfect, like those rescue dogs on TV. She doesn’t always come when we call. She still tries to hide when I get the leash and offer to take her on a walk. And she has her “PTSD moments,” when she spooks and runs for no reason we can understand.

I’ve been wondering: should I try to “fix” these last remnants of her old problem?

“Do what I do with you,” the Voice went on, “Accept her and love her just as she is. I gave her to you to develop your patience, compassion and mercy. You’re not perfect. It’s unfair to demand perfection from anyone else…even a dog.”

And yes–the same principle applies to the imperfect people we live and work with every day. God puts these folks in our lives for a reason. Sometimes, they are to be sandpaper, rubbing off our rough spots. They balance our weak areas, crucify our selfishness. None of this is fun, but it’s good for us.

Our job is not to change them but offer God’s unconditional love.

Lighten up…and leave the rest to Him.

LORD JESUS: Is this what you mean by the “unforced rhythms of grace?”

First published in “Bozeman Daily Chronicle,” September 23, 2018.